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"Ask the President" Launches; Let the Public Pick Questions for Obama

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 19 2009

On the first full day of his presidency, Barack Obama issued an executive memo calling on the government to become more transparent, participatory and collaborative. He wrote:

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Of course, public participation is a two-way street. That's why, today, Personal Democracy Forum is proud to announce that we are partnering with a cross-partisan coalition of old and new media in launching "Ask the President," an open, collaborative, participatory forum where anyone can post a question and vote up their favorites. Our lead partners, The Nation magazine and The Washington Times, have committed to send a credentialed journalist to every presidential press conference armed with a list of the top citizen-driven questions, aiming to ask the President at least one generated by the public.

As Ari Melber, the lead spark plug behind this effort (along with Chuck Defeo at the Washington Times), writes in the Nation today:

The coalition is inviting people to write in questions or submit them as videos. Participants can see all the questions on the site and vote on the ones the president should answer. The system allows only one vote per question from each Internet IP address, but there is no limit on how many questions people can support. The portal also enables anyone to embed questions on other websites. So after posting a question about bank nationalization, for example, a participant can then link to that question on another site--a blog or news site--and appeal to others to back it.

The "Ask the President" forum is being hosted by CommunityCounts, the wonderful open-source community discussion platform built by David Colarusso. It's a direct outgrowth of the work we did during the primaries with, and we're all thrilled to be working together now. Additional sponsors include, Care2, The Field, Jack and Jill Politics, HughHewitt.Com, Culture Kitchen,, Citizens for Civil Discourse, Smart Mobs, and Afro-Netizen, along with Craig Newmark and Lawrence Lessig.